Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Plan to allow phone calls and Net access on a flight

New Delhi: Airlines in India could soon be allowed to offer mobile telephony and internet services on flights.

If and when this happens, Indian carriers will join a club of more than 30 airlines, including British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic, that allow passengers to use mobile phones and surf the Net during a flight.

Telecom regulator Trai has kicked off discussions on the subject by floating a consultation paper that looks at the possibility of introducing in-flight connectivity for voice, data and video services for domestic and international flights as well as planes flying over the Indian airspace.

"It is possible for the passengers to have telecom services in the aircraft travelling at 800 km per hour and 10,000 metres in the sky because of satellite-enabled connectivity. As technologies to provide such access have developed, so too have consumers' expectations. They desire seamless connectivity regardless of their location - whether on land, in the air or on the sea. New advances in technology mean more flyers have access to telecom services than ever before," says the Trai paper.
The regulator has tossed up a set of 18 questions that cover a gamut of issues - from the kind of technology that should be harnessed and the need to regulate the new breed of service providers to security issues involved and ways to monitor the cabin chatter with relatives and associates on the ground.

Technology is a big issue: most airlines today provide in-flight connectivity using Wi-Fi. Singapore Airlines, for instance, has a partnership with Sitaonair and Panasonic that use such a system.

But Trai notes that "there has been a shift away from basic Wi-Fi systems to faster systems. The launch of high throughput satellites (HTS) in both Ku-band and Ka-band is expected to be a game changer for the in-flight connectivity band".

Both Ku and Ka bands are high-frequency bands that haven't as yet been farmed out. The Ku band is a frequency range of 14-14.5GHz (earth to space) and 10.7-11.7GHz (space to earth). The Ka band typically covers 19.7-20.7GHz (space to earth) and 29.5-30GHz (earth to space).

"The HTS systems will not only tremendously increase data speeds to the plane compared to the regular satellite systems, but will also significantly lower costs, thereby driving the adoption of IFC (in-flight connectivity) services," the paper says.
02/10/17 Telegraph

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